Room number 7A at the Karkardooma courts complex is not a typical court room.
It has a recreational room for children, a pantry stacked with chocolates, a lounge and a dock with a one-way mirror for the accused.
Unlike other court rooms, the judge here need not sit on the dais but can use one of the two couches that have replaced a witness box.
Welcome to India’s first child court witness room (CCWR) which was launched to provide a conducive atmosphere to children, who are either victims of crime or witnesses to it.
Here a child can recall the crime scene without facing the accused. The child would have the option of recording his statement through video-conferencing while sitting in the lounge or he can also be cross-examined inside the court-room.
The room’s decor has been designed in such a manner that it comforts the child while he/she awaits his/her to depose. While an accused would enter the room from the common corridor, the child would access it from the elevator meant for judges only.
The CCWR, however, ensures that the provision of criminal procedure code allowing the accused to examine a witness in his presence is not violated. In case the child video-records his statement, the accused can view and hear on TV.
If he or she is examined in open court, the accused would then have to sit in the closed dock from where he can see the child through a one-way mirror.
The CCWR is the first step to overcome the absence of legislation on witness protection. Hostile evidence is the main cause for an abysmal low rate of conviction in India.
A Delhi High Court committee of Justices Gita Mittal and Reva Khetrapal has also worked out a module to sensitise the trial court judges on how to record statements of child witnesses. “We were deeply troubled by the manner in which statements of children were being recorded. The young ones are the most vulnerable,
especially in sexual cases,” Justice Mittal said during the inauguration of the court room on Sunday.
Justice Altamas Kabir, the Chief Justice of India-designate, lauded the high court’s efforts and said the CCWR should be replicated in all the trial courts of the country.